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Windows 10 May 2019 Update: The best hidden features

From display brightness to cursor boldness to GameBar and Notepad enhancements, there's something for everyone.

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Microsoft

The Windows 10 May 2019 Update offers many small improvements and subtle changes that may fly under the radar of our full review. But you never know—that little detail could change your Windows 10 life for the better. It could even impress your friends as you swap troubleshooting tips.

Whether it’s removing distraction, making cursors bigger and more colorful, or adding a photo gallery to the Games Bar, we’ve already identified a number of noteworthy hidden features. Here’s what we have so far—and we’ll update this story as we find more. 

Windows Hello can now log you into Web sites

As of early May, the Windows 10 May Update has gained a new capability: FIDO2 certification for Windows Hello, because Windows Hello is now a FIDO2 certified authenticator. If that means nothing to you, try this: if a site (and your PC) supports it, you'll now be able to log in your face or finger. (Microsoft already allows you to log in to your Microsoft account via Windows Hello.)

windows hello Mark Hachman / IDG

Windows Hello uses either a front-facing depth camera (shown here) or a fingerprint reader to recognize you. Here, the setup process maps your facial characteristics, fortunately ignoring my windblown hair.

Even if your bank decides facial recognition by itself isn't secure enough, the combination of a fingerprint or face and a password should make online transactions even more secure. 

Focus Assist turns on automatically for full-screen apps

Whether they’re ads, phone calls, or just an annoying coworker, distractions can destroy productivity. The Windows notifications that slide in from the side of the screen can, too. Focus Assist is Windows’ answer to that, but until now you’ve had to manually toggle it on and off. A recent release automatically enabled it when playing a full-screen game. Now, if you so choose, any full-screen app will toggle on Focus Assist. 

Windows 10 April 2019 Update focus assist Mark Hachman / IDG

There’s a wealth of options for Focus Assist, if you despise intrusive notifications.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off notifications completely. You may turn off everything except any alarms you may have set—and if you set no alarms, you’ll be notification-free.

Preferred brightness remains, whether on AC or battery power 

Windows 10 used to retain two different display brightness settings: one for when your device was plugged in, and one for when it ran on battery power. Now, there’s just one common setting, for both scenarios. You may still set Windows to vary the brightness depending on available lighting, however, and nothing’s changed regarding the “night light” feature that dials down the blue light output to minimize disruption to sleep patterns. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Home seems to preserve the blunt “bright, brighter, brightest” settings, while Windows 10 Pro allows finer tuning via numerical percentage values.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update brightness settings Mark Hachman / IDG

Nothing fancy here: The brightness feature simply doesn’t change when you unplug your laptop.

Windows Reserved Storage arrives

Users who buy a new PC with the May 2019 Update installed, or refresh their PC with a clean installation, may notice something new: a “reserved storage” portion of the disk. “Reserved storage” isn’t a system partition; it’s a block of space that abuts your system files. Reserved storage is simply a space Windows carves out for temporary files, updates, and other housekeeping. Typically, it will require about 7GB, Microsoft says, though that could increase or decrease due to optional features you’ve enabled, or support for multiple languages. That will be in addition to the 5GB or so Windows itself claims.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update reserved storage Mark Hachman / IDG

Windows 10’s reserved storage allocates some of your hard drive or SSD for short-term housekeeping purposes such as temp files, update files, and the like.

Microsoft added reserved storage because it found that the disk space Windows required when it downloaded files would interfere with the space reserved for a user’s data, impeding the performance of the PC. PCs that ship with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update with reserved storage will probably seem to have a little less space available for storing data than before.

Manual sync with time servers

If you’ve ever pulled out your laptop after a business trip and the clock refuses to adjust itself, it’s not just annoying—it can wreak havoc with your calendar appointments. Even syncing the time and time zone automatically doesn’t always work. Now there’s a button to sync the PC with a time server manually, so everything’s up to date, down to the second.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update manual time sync Mark Hachman / IDG

Don’t expect to use this often, but it’s there if you need it.

Notepad adds an asterisk to unsaved files

Not everyone uses Notepad, but if you do, you’re probably used to working with files that aren’t saved automatically, as Word and other Office documents are. As a subtle but helpful reminder, Notepad adds an asterisk to a filename that contains unsaved data.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update notepad asterisk Mark Hachman / IDG

Eventually, Notepad may gain autosave capabilities. But for now, any unsaved additions you make to a Notepad file are signified by the tiny asterisk in the title bar, just to the left of “Untitled”.

Bigger, brighter cursors

You’ve always been able to adjust the size of your cursor within Settings > Ease of Access > Cursor & Pointer size, making it slightly larger and swapping its color from white to black. The Windows 10 May 2019 Update adds far more, enabling you to blow up the cursor to gargantuan size and add various color options. Yes, it’s all in the name of usability, but it’s fun, too.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update cursors Mark Hachman / IDG

You can already adjust the visibility of cursors to make them transparent, or black. But this new update allows you to make them large and colorful. 

Linux files available in File Manager

Windows Subsystem for Linux is an optional feature that creates a Linux shell within Windows (In the Search box, type in turn Windows features on or off, then check the box for Windows Subsystem for Linux.). Until now, the only real way to access the source files was through the Linux shell. That’s changed, as they’re now available within File Manager.

Game Bar adds a photo gallery

If you’re into sharing screenshots and videos directly from Microsoft’s Game Bar, you don’t need to leave the app to do so—you can do it right from within Game Bar.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update hidden features  game bar Mark Hachman / IDG

Touch keyboard improvements

For many of you, a great physical keyboard is a must. But with dual-display devices making their way through the lab, maybe we’ll all end up typing on glass. In any case, Microsoft made the on-screen keyboard ( the one you’d use with a tablet in tablet mode) more responsive by widening the landing areas of certain keys beyond the drawn boundaries of the key.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update touch keyboard Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s diagram of how its touch keyboard will work. Note that this is the keyboard that appears in tablet mode.

Those wider landing pads trigger only in certain cases, though—when Microsoft’s AI predicts you’re trying to type that word. The touch keyboard also can generate the list of items for the revamped emoji/kaomoji/symbols keyboard.

Unconfirmed sighting: RAW image support

It’s unclear whether RAW image support will make it into the Windows 10 May 2019 Update. RAW, a minimally processed image file format, doesn’t include the compression JPG files do, so photographers typically prefer working with the format to make their own edits.

Within the Insider versions of Windows 10, Microsoft included a special build of a Raw Image Extension (Beta) app that should let Windows treat RAW photos just like JPEGs. In practice, it didn’t quite work out that way: Sony .ARW (RAW) files displayed as random noise or fuzzy, thumbnail-quality images, while Fuji’s .RAF files opened in Windows’ Photos app normally.

Windows 10 April 2019 Update raw in photos Mark Hachman / IDG

Photos took a second or two to adjust the color when loading this Fuji .RAF file. 

This story was updated on May 10, with the addition of FIDO2 authentication for Windows Hello.

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